News / USA

Immigration Law Divides Arizona City

Bill Odle
Bill Odle
Mike O'Sullivan

A law intended to curb illegal immigration is to take effect in the southwestern state of Arizona late next month and it is generating controversy across the United States.  Recent public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans, including those in Arizona, support the new law, which requires non-citizens to carry documents that show that they are in the United States legally.  It also requires Arizona police to question people if there is reason to believe they are not in the country legally. In Tucson, Arizona both sides in the debate say it is up to Washington to settle the immigration issue.

The new law has led to protests throughout the United States and it is dividing the people of Tucson.  The city is only 100 kilometers from the U.S. border with Mexico.  And authorities say that at least 40 percent of U.S. border crossing arrests are in the Tucson region.  More than 240,000 illegal migrants were apprehended in there last year.

South of Tucson, on the border, residents complain of human and drug smuggling, of nuisances like trash left by those who cross the border illegally, and of violence.

Bill Odle's home is on the border.  He says lack of action by the U.S. government prompted the state measure.

"Because we're so disappointed in the failure of the federal government to do anything productive.  They [federal government] are charged with that [border enforcement] in the Constitution.  And they have just failed," he said.

Pancho Medina
Pancho Medina

But in the Hispanic neighborhood of South Tucson, attitudes are different.  At a local charity that offers food to the poor, Mexican American activist Pancho Medina says the law targets Hispanics.

"The state legislature should be saying, 'Mexicans, go home!  Go back to Mexico, Mexicans!'  That's what they're really saying.  And I'm angry because I'm more of an American, I'm a better citizen, more patriotic than half of these people in the United States," he said.

Responding to criticism, the Arizona legislature changed the wording of the law to ensure that race is not a factor in enforcement.  

But critics like Reverend Delle McCormick of the group BorderLinks say race will be decisive.

"Everybody knows who's stopped more often here," McCormick said. "I mean, it's happened for years.  It's people of color, people with brown skin or light brown skin.  It's people who are smaller in stature.  People who wear a particular kind of clothing, have a backpack on, have dark clothing, look like they've come through the desert, look like they're a migrant."

Police worry that the law will hurt relations with the Hispanic community.

Captain Michael Gillooly, chief of staff of the Tucson Police Department, says the new law will take officers away from enforcing other laws.

"And that might be challenging for us because we're a busy community, a busy police department," he said. "And we will have to find time for that.  The challenge is that the law also prescribes a remedy for a civil lawsuit against the city and the police department, if somebody feels we did not enforce the law when we had an opportunity to do so."

Since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law in April, dozens of U.S. cities have launched boycotts against the state.  Economists say they might already be having an impact on Arizona's tourist industry, which employs 40,000 people in Tucson alone.

But Kimberly Schmitz of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitor's Bureau says the boycotts will not resolve the issue of immigration.

"Boycotts are bad for everybody," she said. "Everybody suffers.  There's just nothing good that comes out of it.  We believe that there are other ways to work with some of the issues that are going on than to try to deprive an industry or really deprive people in an industry of their livelihood."

The new law faces civil lawsuits.  And the Obama administration is considering a court challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice.  

Law professors at the University of Arizona in Tucson have tried to untangle the issues.  One says the law is not well written, but that it raises important questions about the place of race in law enforcement and the role of local officials in enforcing federal immigration law.

Professor Marc Miller says it is unclear whether the Arizona law will withstand a court challenge.

"And part of the difficulty in answering the question is that to understand all of the legal issues involved with this bill requires about half of a modern American law faculty," he said. "You have to be a criminal lawyer, an expert in criminal procedure, in state and federal relations, in state and local law, in constitutional law and in immigration law."

President Barack Obama has promised to send an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, but that has done little to satisfy either side in the debate.  

In the end, most people agree that the federal government has the main responsibility for overseeing immigration.  Conservatives largely favor better fences and stricter border enforcement.  And liberals want immigration reform with a path to citizenship for some of the millions of people who are already in the United States illegally.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More